Forum Index » General Lightweight Backpacking Discussion » Going Frameless? Will my back regret it?


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Max Dilthey
(mdilthey) - M

Locale: MaxTheCyclist.com
Going Frameless? Will my back regret it? on 11/24/2012 18:36:26 MST Print View

I recently bought a Boreas Buttermilk 40L, and I could go on for days with how thrilled I am with that bag. Will review upon request.

Anyways, the bag has a plastic sheet and a metal tubing frame system that is fully removable, as shown here. Note, there are two of them in this photo:
Boreas Frame Sheet

After taking the frame out, It's easy to pack the bag in such a way that the foam backpanel keeps it's shape, and the nature of that foam being so thick and substantial, I can't really detect a difference with or without the frame; if anything, the fit seems better without the frame!


My question is, am I going to damage my back if I were to hike extensively without the frame if my baseweight is around 13-15lbs? I don't know how large a role a frame has in redistributing weight to the right places, but I don't want to risk an injury.

Thanks,
-M

Edited by mdilthey on 11/24/2012 18:37:51 MST.

Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
Will Your Back Regret a Frameless Pack? Depends... on 11/24/2012 19:30:40 MST Print View

As surely you know, there are tradeoff's between full frame vs. frameless packs -- else everyone would have gravitated to frameless a long time ago!

The trick is to match your pack with your gear volume and weight. You just need a pack that will give you the comfort you need. Once you are at that point, you do NOT need a heavier pack with stouter frame and beefier padding for extra comfort. Why not? Because carrying a heavier/stouter pack to provide additional comfort that you don't require (for your gear weight) just means putting that much more poundage onto your hips, legs, ankles, and feet!

So, how do you know what gear weight matches frameless packs well? There's general rule of thumb for starting point -- and then there's actual experimentation. And I would focus on your total pack weight -- in terms of the type / duration of hikes you take. As a general rule, most people are perfectly OK using frameless packs to carry weights of up to 25lbs.

Given your base weight, you are a good candidate to try out frameless packs. Best way is to pack up and do a nearby hike -- or even hike the neighborhood for an hour or three. If you feel no particular discomfort or stress points, then the pack is right for you. Remember, we are all different.

Hope this helps.

Edited by ben2world on 11/24/2012 19:35:51 MST.

Justin Baker
(justin_baker) - F

Locale: west coast best coast
Re: Going Frameless? Will my back regret it? on 11/24/2012 19:52:12 MST Print View

The issue isn't your back or injury, it's your shoulders. With heavier loads, you wont be able to put the load on your hips and most of it will be on your shoulders. They can get sore easily. You can condition your shoulders a bit to prevent soreness.

Max Dilthey
(mdilthey) - M

Locale: MaxTheCyclist.com
Anecdotes on 11/24/2012 20:29:00 MST Print View

I've heard anecdotal war stories from people who hiked 200 miles with a bag, only to be taken off the trail for an injured back because they didn't realize the pack was relying on the wrong muscle groups. Any weight to these stories? (no pun intended)

Justin: the thicker foam padding near the bottom of the Boreas seems to allow load transfer to the hips. That particular issue may be remedied.

Edited by mdilthey on 11/24/2012 20:29:46 MST.

Clayton Mauritzen
(GlacierRambler) - M

Locale: NW Montana
Re: Total Pack Weight on 11/24/2012 21:02:04 MST Print View

What you have to keep in mind when choosing framed/frameless packs is not just base weight but total pack weight. I saw on another thread that you're considering a thru-hike of the Long Trail. Figure out not only what your base weight will be but the maximum load you will carry with food and water. That will make or break the difference in weight between carrying the frame or not.

Also, test it out extensively beforehand and see if the extra ounces are worth it on a long hike or totally unnecessary. Only you can decide.

Luke Schmidt
(Cameron) - MLife

Locale: The WOODS
Frames on 11/24/2012 21:08:12 MST Print View

For a 13-15 pound baseweight I would ALWAYS us an internal frame pack. You can carry 25 pounds (and occasionally more) in a frameless pack in tolerable comfort. But above 20 pounds I argue most people will feel a bit more comfortable with a frame. With a 13-15 pound baseweight you will probably top 20 pounds fairly often.

If you want to go frameless you should be using a sub 2 pound pack and savine 1 or 2 pounds over the weight of the Buttermilk. But if you carry the Buttermilk you are only adding a few ounces by keeping the frame. In my opinion 5-10 oz more for a frame is worth it.

Max Dilthey
(mdilthey) - M

Locale: MaxTheCyclist.com
Buttermilk v. UL on 11/24/2012 21:14:21 MST Print View

I think, because of its minimalist construction, the only difference between my Buttermilk and an UL pack is some durability in the bottom section and the luxurious back foam panel. My Buttermilk is a hair under 2lbs without the frame sheet, so the 1lb tradeoff for the durability and the comfort seems like weight well spent. That is relevant, since a lot of frameless UL packs will feel very different than mine, and the associated issues will be different. Perhaps.

When I load it up with 13lbs as my baseweight and then add water, I can feel the weight on my shoulders but also on my hips, and the feel of the backpanel is no different from when I'm using the frame. One thing I forgot to consider, however, is the 5lbs of camera gear I have on my shoulders, resting in front of me on a chestpack. My backpack might weigh sub-20, but my shoulders are carrying that +5lbs.

Still, if the foam sheet redistributes to my hips, this seems possibly doable.

I think testing is my only surefire way to solve this, but I wondered if anyone had a similar experience worth sharing. I'm loving the feedback: THANK YOU!

Edited by mdilthey on 11/24/2012 21:15:11 MST.

Luke Schmidt
(Cameron) - MLife

Locale: The WOODS
Re Buttermilk vs. UL on 11/24/2012 22:03:12 MST Print View

Well if your Buttermilk is a bit under 2 pounds that must be a rather heavy framesheet. If I recall the specs said the Buttermilk with framesheet was right at 3 pounds. Saving that extra pound might be worth it but again it comes back to total pack weight and what your body can handle.

Everyone is different but my sweet spot is about 20 pounds. Up to about 18-20 a frameless pack is about the same as a framed pack. Over that limit I CAN carry a frameless pack without horrible pain, but I can tell its not as comfortable as a pack with a frame in it.

If you are feeling weight on your shoulders then comfort is basically going to boil down to your physiology. Some people are more comfortable with weight on their shoulders then others.

Remember saving a pound is great but it is still maybe 5% of your total pack weight. If carrying 5% more reasults in greater comfort then don't worry about it.

Max Dilthey
(mdilthey) - M

Locale: MaxTheCyclist.com
Clarification on 11/24/2012 22:18:20 MST Print View

Thanks for noticing my numbers- I double checked it. My pack is 2lb 5oz without the framesheet, and the framesheet weighs 11oz.

I honestly don't know how I hold up physiologically compared to others. I have broad shoulders and a strong back and absolutely no pain while backpacking, but I also have a desperate fear of a 40 year old version of myself who has back/knee problems, so I try to take precautions.

Clayton Mauritzen
(GlacierRambler) - M

Locale: NW Montana
Re: Frame on 11/24/2012 22:30:29 MST Print View

If your frame really weighs 11 oz. and there is still ample foam on the pack, look into some MYOG frames that will save you some weight. I wonder if you could easily integrate the Gossamer Gear U-stay into the pack somehow or add twin aluminum ones.

/*/Edited for above information/*/

Edited by GlacierRambler on 11/24/2012 22:32:54 MST.

Luke Schmidt
(Cameron) - MLife

Locale: The WOODS
Re Clarification on 11/24/2012 22:48:49 MST Print View

Well I don't think you can do too much damage trying it out for short hikes. I had an overuse injury to my back at work but it built up for a long time. Listen to your body, if you are constantly sore or especially if the pain is concentrated in a certain area (as opposed to an overall soreness from a hard day's work), change something.

Now if you are planning a thru-hike I might keep the frame both becuase I think 10-11oz is worth it for the frame and because a framed pack is much more forgiving if you do kink your back somehow. I did 400 plus miles with my back only partially recovered and was fine with my internal frame pack. My frameless pack on the other hand was hugely uncomfortable even with a weekend load.

James Marco
(jamesdmarco) - MLife

Locale: Finger Lakes
Going Frameless? Will my back regret it? on 11/25/2012 06:58:47 MST Print View

Generally, duration between resupply points, will dictate pack weight. Once you establish a base weight, such as yours at 15 pounds, then live loads will determine the actual totals. If you want a week's supply of food, that means about 14pounds for most people and a 29 pound pack weight plus fuel and water. Easily, you are topping 30 pounds.

At 30pounds you need some sort of frame.

At 15 pounds you do not.

So, these are the two end points for your weight parameters. I would go for a smaller pack, and reduce the base weight to about 8-10 pounds. Then reduce your weight for food by using high density foods. This will get you to 25pounds for a week. Add a CCF pad, mounted internally, an this will add the difference between needing a framed pack and not needing one.

For example: Cutting a CCF pad, fanfolded into next to your back makes a good frame and padding against tuff in there. It still doubles for sleeping.

Stephen Barber
(grampa) - MLife

Locale: SoCal
Suggestion on 11/25/2012 09:05:12 MST Print View

Load up your frameless version pack with the maximum you will carry, and go for a one or two night hike. See how it feels. Go on from there!

Jennifer Mitol
(Jenmitol) - M

Locale: In my dreams....
You've got to try it out... on 11/25/2012 10:38:02 MST Print View

+1 for just going out and trying it. I treat a lot of bad backs and knees in my clinic and honestly, if you don't have any trouble with your back or knees now, nothing is really going to "sneak" up on you on a thru-hike that you wouldn't have seen coming. And if it does, it most certainly was NOT because you took out the frame in your pack.

Honestly, load up with as much weight as you would maximally carry (even if you just carry a bunch of water to add to the overall poundage) and take some short and longer trips with it. You'll know right away if it's not carrying right, then you can make adjustments either to your overall weight or the frame.

No worries about your 40-year-old self sneaking up on you...unless you fall off a cliff and break your leg, none of these kinds of injuries are surprises. Even backs...

And speaking as a 40-something with a bad back, I just switched from my framed Exos 46 to a GG Gorilla and my back simply LOVES it. I've been backpacking for more than 20 years and this is the first time I realized that my shoulders didn't have to hurt. Which is exactly opposite of what you'd think from going frameless.....

So load up and go hike. It's the only way to answer your question.

Jake D
(JakeDatc) - F

Locale: Bristol,RI
Re: Suggestion on 11/25/2012 11:02:58 MST Print View

on the LT the furthest i went between resupply was 4.5 days 84mi from the Inn to Jonesville/Richmond. and from Smugglers notch to the end 4days 70mi

so worst case.. 5 days food 2L of water see what it feels like.

Max Dilthey
(mdilthey) - M

Locale: MaxTheCyclist.com
Thanks Jennifer! on 11/25/2012 22:38:34 MST Print View

Jennifer, thank you. That's very much the answer I was looking for- assurance that I'm not going to hurt myself and that there are possible exceptions to general rules about weight. I was iffy since my pack weight was 25-30 and that's right at the threshold- I will test it!

Dale South
(dsouth) - M

Locale: Southeast
RE; Jennifer on 11/26/2012 09:07:42 MST Print View



+1 on what Jennifer said except from a 65 yo who has been backpacking over 30 years. I also switched from an Exos and now carry a GG Gorilla also, and a GG Murmur and my shoulders and hips DO NOT hurt and my back also LOVES it.

Luke Schmidt
(Cameron) - MLife

Locale: The WOODS
Just Try It on 11/26/2012 10:47:04 MST Print View

I would say give it a try. I was thinking of the finer points of "most comfortable" you seem more worried about possible injury. Trust me if you are healthy enough to be backpacking no pack with 20-25 pounds in it is going to actually hurt you.

If you feel comfortable with it frameless that opens up the possibility of buying (or making) a frameless pack that is even lighter then what you have now.

Eric Blumensaadt
(Danepacker) - MLife

Locale: Mojave Desert
REALLY - for the weight of 2 aluminum strips... on 11/27/2012 15:16:00 MST Print View

...you can have the comfort of transferring weight to your hips (and back to your shoulders for a while if desired).

Why anyone sould opt for a frameless pack to save maybe 2 to 4 ounces and sacrifice comfort has always been beyond me. As mentioned above, you also sacrifice load carrying ability with a frameless pack.

BTW, I have twice added 1" wide, pre-curved aluminum stays to packs to make them more comfortable. Loew's 1" aluminum strips and stainless bolts with washers and stainless Nylock nuts completes the setup. Melting bolt holes in the packcloth and framesheet is easy with a heated spike held in locked Vicegrips. But it must be done with great care.

Edited by Danepacker on 11/27/2012 15:19:51 MST.

Jennifer Mitol
(Jenmitol) - M

Locale: In my dreams....
It's not necessarily for weight savings... on 11/27/2012 17:15:46 MST Print View

You're right - it's not worth sacrificing comfort to save 4-5 ounces. But in my case I resisted the idea of a frameless (because that's what I kept reading...and so that's what I thought) for more than a year before I tried the Gorilla (for size, for saving a pound, and because one of my hiking friends raved about her frameless).

As I mentioned before, I have never, ever had a pack this comfortable. I've carried EMS, REI, Gregory and Osprey packs over the years and every last one of them hurt in some way. Granted, some of those early years were just really really heavy, but the Gorilla is the first pack that I've not felt the urge to take off at rest stops and that I don't need to put blister dressings on my collarbones.

Everyone has a pack that works better for him or her, and the only way to know is just to try it out. I certainly wish I'd NOT paid attention to all the talk about how difficult frameless packs can be...I'd have started carrying one 2 years ago.

Doug Coe
(sierraDoug) - M

Locale: Bay Area, CA, USA
Re: It's not necessarily for weight savings... on 11/27/2012 23:02:18 MST Print View

Jennifer--Sorry for the thread highjacking, but the GG Gorilla does have an internal frame, doesn't it?

Ken Thompson
(kthompson) - MLife

Locale: Behind the Redwood Curtain
Re: Re: It's not necessarily for weight savings... on 11/27/2012 23:06:25 MST Print View

Hey Doug, this is from the product page
"Quick Overview
A tough, smaller volume, Ultralight backpack with an internal frame and integrated hip belt pockets good for just about any kind of trip."

John Donewar
(Newton) - MLife

Locale: Southeastern Louisiana
Re: Going Frameless? Will my back regret it? on 11/28/2012 05:56:57 MST Print View

Max,

You've gotten many good responses and suggestions on this thread. One thing that I have not seen mentioned is what kind of sleeping pad you use and your method of packing it into your pack.

What is your pad style? Do you use an inflatable or a foam pad? Who is the manufacturer?

Do you fold or roll your pad? Is your packing method the "burrito style" or do you fold your pad and keep it close to your back?

I recently switched to an inflatable ProLite Plus pad and the folding pad method in my pack. I use a frameless MYOG pack without a hip belt and carry approximately 23 pounds in my fully loaded pack. This includes food, water and fuel for about a week or more.

If my pack had a hip belt I believe that I could carry a somewhat heavier load easily due to the folded inflatable pad's "stiffness" helping to transfer the weight.

+1 for the conditioning of the shoulders.

My MYOG pack has 3" wide shoulder straps made of 4mm spacer mesh and Xpac fabric only. There is no foam padding and as I mentioned there is no hip belt. On a recent outing I carried my full load quite comfortably. The trick is the wide straps distributing the load over a wider area and getting used to carrying the weight on your shoulders only.

I hope this helps rather than confuses the issue. ;-)

FWIW I am 58 years old.

Party On,

Newton

James Marco
(jamesdmarco) - MLife

Locale: Finger Lakes
Re: Re: Going Frameless? Will my back regret it? on 11/28/2012 09:34:24 MST Print View

Newton, On a summer backpacking trip, my daughter had nothing but problems with her pad folded. (She was using a Gossamer Gear G5 Sil.) In the pad pocket, it would continually bunch up. I finaly sugested she use the rolled methode inside the pack after the first day and it carried far better. I was using the Murmur with a 5 piece NightLite pad in the pad pocket that was carrying more weight (around 20 lbs) than hers and it carried easily. The inflatable seemed to fail for this use. We did not try it folded inside as you suggest, though. (She had about 17 pounds for 5 nights.)

I would suggest that the inflatable pads loose a good portion of their stiffness when only partially inflated. Inside, she was able to stuff her bag and gear, then inflate the thing pretty well. She *did* complain about it rocking on her back, though.

John Donewar
(Newton) - MLife

Locale: Southeastern Louisiana
Re: Re: Re: Going Frameless? Will my back regret it? on 11/28/2012 12:30:46 MST Print View

Hi James,

Does the G5 hold its pad in the same way as the G4 does in the picture below?

G4 pad pocket

My MYOG pack has lycra pockets on its sides.

MyOwn lycra side pockets

In one of them I carry my tent. I have noticed that the lycra tends to stretch and relax a bit after a period of time. I have also noticed a distinct tendency of anything in a lycra pocket to slip. My tent is stored in a silnylon stuff sack. On a recent hike it ejected itself from the pocket while the pack was lying down on a truck bed as I attempted to pick it up.

When my inflatable pad is folded it is purged of air and the valve closed. The pad is folded in as many sections as it takes to approximate the width of my pack. The deflated and folded pad is inserted into the interior of my pack next to my back. It is located by two elastic bands sewn into the seam allowances at about 8" from the top and 8" or so from the bottom. This hold my pad against to front panel of my pack and keeps it from shifting or moving around.

The rest of my gear is packed inside of a trash compactor bag inside of my pack. My pack is sized to my carried gear with a little extra space for "extras" but not much.
This probably helps in keeping the pad located as well.

I'm sorry that it didn't work in your daughter's case but it works well for me when done as described above. YMMV

Party On,

Newton

Jennifer Mitol
(Jenmitol) - M

Locale: In my dreams....
Frame in a gorilla on 11/28/2012 15:10:01 MST Print View

Yep, the gorilla has a removable aluminum stay...which I removed. It does use the sit pad (as seen in the previous post's G4) but honestly I didn't notice any difference with or without the stays. The sit pad gives it nice structure without the stays and carries very well. Having used the more substantial ospreys and Gregorys I really think its a stretch to equate those frames with the little piece of bent aluminum in the gorilla. Perhaps in a purist view of frameless...but functionally I think the gap between those product types is quite large.

Maybe if I topped 20# I'd try the stays again, but so far my weekend jaunts with it have been <15. Having the flexibility is nice.

Clayton Mauritzen
(GlacierRambler) - M

Locale: NW Montana
Re: Frame in a gorilla on 11/28/2012 20:40:13 MST Print View

Having pulled apart some of those frame packs (a Deuter, most specifically, but one without the suspended mesh backpanel), I can say that many use a surprisingly similar system to the Gorilla. The Gorilla is something of an odd hybrid, being able to between framed and frameless.

However, I don't know what kind of alloy the Deuter pack used. I have heard that the 6061 of the Gorilla is quite common in mainstream packs, but I can't say for sure.

James Marco
(jamesdmarco) - MLife

Locale: Finger Lakes
Re: Re: Re: Re: Going Frameless? Will my back regret it? on 11/29/2012 04:07:32 MST Print View

Yes. So far, all the GG packs I have tried fit the 5 piece pad, it looks like it is pretty standard on the older G4, both G5's(spinnaker & sil,) the Miniposa and the Murmur. The material stretches when new, but quickly learns it's place.

She never got a chance to cut and tape her nightlite (she's works as a RN, has two kids.) I will probably do it for her since last summer bothered her. Yeah, inside seems to work better with the inflatable pads...hers crushed easily from the weight, especially the bottom edge...it was not supplying enough support for all the junk she brings...books, newspapers, towel, bag, water bottles. I have the rest of the camp in my pack (tarp, cookset, food, sleeping bag.) Using the pad pockets for more than 10 pounds of gear is kind-of wasted. I thought the pad would be OK since she wasn't carrying a LOT of weight(~17#,) so, OK'ed it. That was my mistake.